Golf: McKay ties for 34th at U.S. Open

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By Mike Cote

It was a golfing vacation of sorts for Mhairi McKay and her family.


But, unlike most golfing vacations, McKay came home with some extra money in her pocket.

McKay, a professional golfer living in Los Alamos, finished tied for 34th place at this weekend’s U.S. Women’s Open. McKay finished 14 shots over par at the U.S. Open, equaling the performance of four other golfers.

It was the first major professional tournament for McKay — who has been on the LPGA tour since 1998 — since taking a year off to give birth to her son, Angus. She, Angus and husband David Smith were all on hand for the tournament, which was held at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.

While Smith caddied for McKay, Angus stayed in the LPGA’s on-site daycare center, a service it provides at its event.

“I love the challenge of the U.S. Open,” said McKay, who’s played at seven U.S. Opens during her career. “It was great to share that with Dave. It was nice to have the whole family there, with Angus there. It’s such a tough week mentally and physically…but it really couldn’t have been better.”

This year’s U.S. Open title was won by Paula Creamer. Known as the “Pink Panther” because of her affinity for pink golfing attire and equipment, Creamer was considered by many to be the top LPGA player who had never won a major title going into the event.

Creamer, who has had a slow 2010 season, due to an injured thumb that required surgery early this year, shot a 3-under par for the tournament, winning the title by four strokes over Na Yeon Choi and Suzann Pettersen.

McKay actually fared better at the tournament than did defending U.S. Open champ Eun-Hee Ji, who was 39th on the leaderboard.

To get to this year’s U.S. Open, McKay, who has had to find time to squeeze golf workouts in as best she can while juggling her family demands, McKay finished in the top three at a sectional qualifying event in Colorado Springs in late May.

At that tournament, Smith acted as McKay’s caddy and jumped at the chance to do so again for the U.S. Open.

The U.S. Open couldn’t have started off much better for McKay, who was tied for sixth overall after her round. McKay actually had a piece of the overall lead at one point Thursday, as the golfers went out in a morning wave and an afternoon wave. McKay turned in the low score of the morning group.

McKay shot an even-par 71 Thursday on the 6,613-yard course to start her tournament.

But Oakmont, which McKay said was the toughest course she’d ever played during her pro career, would eventually catch up.

It didn’t help that a huge rainstorm hit just as she was getting into her round Friday. She played only five holes Friday before the storm washed out the remainder of her second round for the day.

“I ended up playing 31 holes on Saturday,” she said. “For the third round, I had two bad holes that really spoiled my score, but I did a lot of really good things.”

Along with pushing most of her second round back a day, McKay said the rain also bogged the course down considerably. In contrast to Thursday, when she was getting good rolls both from tee-to-green and near the cups, Saturday those good bounces and good reads had all but disappeared.

McKay ended up with a 78 in round two, which, combined with her 71 Thursday, was good enough to make the cut. She finished her third round with a total of 76, but bounced back Sunday to finish with a 2-over 73.

Sunday, she earned five birdies, including a birdie on the par-4 15th, which she went bogey-double bogey on during Saturday’s play.

Her final total of 298 strokes was worth $18,980 in prize money. Creamer, meanwhile, picked up a cool $585,000 for her victory.

“It’s without a doubt the hardest week you’ll have on the tour,” she said. “Everyone dreams of winning the U.S. Open. (The United States Golf Association) runs a first class event, but also makes it the hardest conditions possible. They try to test you golf game to extreme lengths. There’s a lot of pressure and there’s a lot of things going on.”

McKay, who’s still only golfing part-time, said her immediate schedule is still a little up in the air right now, although she’s scheduled to make an appearance in her home country, Scotland, in late August.

Before going pro, McKay had a distinguished amateur career in Scotland and still has family there.

That’s one more big plus for McKay.

“There are plenty of babysitters,” she said.